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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 8 NO 2, DECEMBER, 2010


 

 

THE SENSITIVITY OF SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS TEACHERS

TO GENDER ISSUES IN THE CLASSROOM

 

Raina A. Ovie-Ekpewu

Chemistry Department, Federal College of Education (Technical), Potiskum

E-mail:commonamibo@yahoo.com

 

 

Abstract

This study is aimed at establishing the level of gender sensitivity of science and mathematics teachers in the teaching and learning of science and mathematics. A total of 51 science and mathematics teachers randomly sampled from Potiskum and Damaturu education zones of Yobe State made up the sample. Three research questions guided the study, and Survey design was used in the investigation, Result showed that the sensitivity of both male and female science and mathematics teachers were low and that the girls do not get the required encouragement from teachers to study science. However the gender sensitivity of female teachers in the classroom were found to be higher than that of the male teachers.The inclusion of gender sensitivity issues in the class in the Curriculum of Pre-service teachers and automatic employment of female STM teachers to act as role models to the students in STM class is recommended.

 

Keywords: Sensitivity; gender; teachers; science; mathematics

 


Introduction

The declaration of 1975- 1985 as the decade for women and development, by the United Nations awakened in many countries the interest  to encourage their women to develop themselves and to participate more actively in many areas including science, mathematics and technology. Consequently a lot of conferences and programs of activates were initiated at international and national levels, to address the issue. Prominent among the conferences and programmes are;-

-          the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the advancement of women (1985)

-          African-women platform for Action (Darkar Senigal)

-          UN fourth world conference on women in Beigin (1994)

-          UN world conference on women in New York (2004).

-          All these intervention are focused on the need to reduce or eliminate the gender-gap between male and female students in STME world wide.   In Nigeria, STAN has been at the forefront of fostering gender equity in Science and Technology. It came up with a position paper in 2001 published as “women in science, mathematics” and technology-the Nigerian experience and its theme of the 42nd Conference was “ Women in Science Technology and Mathematics. The Federal Ministry of education has come up with many policies, such as NEEDS, National policy on women, Family Support Basic Education Programme etc. In addition to the efforts being made to enhance the girls interest in SMTE, conference and seminars\workshop are being organized to sensitize science teachers on gender related issues in the classroom.

 

However, despite these gender based conferences; studies have shown that girls are continually faced with numerous problems that adversely affect their interest and achievement in science subjects (Okeke 1990, Obianya 2000). Consequently the girls are still highly under-represented in STM courses and careers,(Nwoma, 2006). There are numerous socio-cultural and school-based factors that lower girl’s interest in STME and hinder their full participation. Some of these socio-cultural factors include;- gender role stereotyping in career choices and poor representation of female role models. The school based factors are differential teacher expectation, gender bias in STME curricular, inappropriate guidance\counseling to female students, unconducive science teaching methods and sexual harassment (Nnaka, 2006, Njoku 2006).

 

The sensitivity of science teachers to the deplorable state of girl’s participation/achievement in SMTE would no doubt produce some positive result. The sensitivity of science teachers to gender issues would depend on their level of responsiveness to the various efforts made by government and other scientific organizations towards equipping\enlightening science teachers and other stake holders. The present study aims at unveiling the sensitivity/responsiveness of science teachers to gender issues in the science classroom.

 

The problem

The government of Nigeria and other stakeholders has shown through policy statements and organization of seminars, conferences and workshops among other incentives their determination to improve the performance of   the female in SMTE. Some of these exercises were directed at sensitizing the Science, Mathematics and technology teachers on gender issues. Among some of this are National workshop on promoting Science mathematics, and Technology   among girls in Nigeria by FME in1989, workshop by STAN on Gender sensitive class 2008, women in science, mathematics and Technology in Nigeria STAN 42nd  National conference 2001 etc. In line with the above, the present study is to determine how the above efforts have affected the gender sensitivity of STM teacher in the class in Nigerian secondary school. 

 

 

Research Question

What is the level of gender sensitivity of female SMT teachers to gender issues in the classroom?

 What is the level of gender sensitivity of male SMT teachers to gender issues in the classroom?

Is there any significant difference between the gender sensitivity of female and male SMT teachers in the science classroom.

 

Methodology

The survey research design was used for the study. The population comprised of all the science teachers teaching in the twenty secondary schools in Damaturu and Potiskum educational zones of Yobe state which offer SMT.

 

Sample and sampling technique

Stratified random sampling was used to select 15 schools out of the 20 secondary schools     based on school type. Simple random sampling was used to select four SMT teachers from each of the sampled schools, giving a total of ninety (90) SMT teachers as sample of the study.

 

Instrument for the study

The instrument used for the study was a questionnaire adapted from UNESCO gender sensitivity module 5 Zambia (1998). Three experts in gender and science education validated the instrument which consist of  20-items with four points modified Likert response alternatives as follows; SA 4, A = 3, D = 2, SD = 1.

 

Reliability of the instrument

The questionnaire was administered to 30 teachers from 5 schools in Gashua educational zone to determine its internal consistency. Analysis of the data obtained from the trial test using Cronbach Alpha gave an internal consistency index of 0.73, thus the instrument was considered fit for the study.

 

Procedure

The questionnaire was administered to the subjects through three 3 research assistance and was collected after two days.

 

Data Analysis

The data were collated and analyzed using; - mean, standard deviation and t-test at level of 0.05 significance


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results

 

S/NO

 

ITEMS

 

SA

 

A

 

D

 

SD

X

SD

1

Boys get more attention in my class during teaching

20

42

32

17

2.06

0.44

2

Questions are more often directed to boys in the class

16

30

42

19

1.98

0.52

3

Expect boys to answer most of the questions in the class

20

45

44

11

2.18

0.32

4

Use the pronoun “he” more often than she when teaching

20

54

28

16

2.26

0.27

5

Rarely ask a girl to demonstrate experiment in class

24

46

38

13

2.24

0.26

6

Female role models are often used in my teaching

28

42

38

13

2.28

0.22

7

Most of my jokes are directed to boys in the class

24

39

34

17

2.15

0.35

8

Set the same form of punishment for boys and girls in class

44

48

20

16

2.42

0.05

9

Set the same form of reward for boys and girls in the class

84

66

12

04

3.13

0.63

10

During practical work I usually ask a girl to lead the group

20

36

48

15

2.06

0.44

11

Encourage boys and girls to work together in groups during  practical

112

54

6

04

3.32

-0.82

12

More time is allocated to girls to answer questions

12

21

40

24

1.80

0.7

13

When a girl gives wrong answer to the question, I make uncomplimentary   Remarks

08

09

48

25

1.67

0.83

14

Boys usually sit behind while girls should sit in front

16

39

42

16

2.09

0.41

15

15  Assign specific role to students based on   gender

28

63

24

11

2.47

0.03

16

Explain to the class that females can also do specific types of work that  illustrates what boys are doing     

80

87

02

01

3.33

-.83

17

Girls in my class are usually given encouraging statements that motivate them to study science

88

69

08

02

3.28

-.78

18

Make negative comments to students about the kind of work or course that girls should undertake

08

06

42

24

1.63

0.087

19

Put in extra effort to help girls with their work in science and mathematics  class

54

57

16

02

3.00

-.5

20

Chores/tasks are rotated for boys as well as for boys.

48

81

04

05

3.00

-.5

 Table 1 Gender Sensitive Questionnaire                                                                           

Response and mean of female and male teachers. (N =51).

 


 

 

Findings/discussion

Table 1 show that most of the responses of the teachers (male and female) to the gender sensitive items in the class is low. The mean score on most of the questionnaire is less than 2.50.Some of the questionnaires are emphasizing the traditional style and way of instruction in science class, and for such questionnaire a mean of less than two is an indication of a shift from tradition of low expectation from the girl child in science class and hence is a sign of positive development in gender sensitivity.

 

Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 13, 14, and 18. are statements emphasizing the characteristic of traditional gender insensitive, gender blind and differential treatment in classroom instruction. The mean score of two and above, in these items, indicate significant level of gender insensitivity on the part of the teachers. This implies that the teachers have differential expectations for the students in class and actually expect the girls to perform lower than the boys. These  erroneous expectations  of low performance  in science from girls by the science teachers is in agreement with the  notion, that STM subject are for males and not for females (Nzewi 2003, Njoku 1997, Okeke 1990). Due to this low expectation, the level of interaction between the teacher and the female student is greatly reduced. Consequently, the science teachers tend to interact more with the males and also expose them to more challenging tasks (Obanya 2000). This action automatically puts the females in a disadvantaged position for learning.

 

The mean score of item 1-4 is in agreement with the findings of Nnaka and Anaekwe (2005) that teachers use mainly masculine pronouns when discussing the STM concepts and also give more access to boys in class discussion and demonstration. There is no doubt that this conduct is capable of reducing the girls’ interest and motivation in STM.

 

The mean scores of items 6, 10, and 12 which are positive indicators of gender sensitivity, and are less than 2.50; show that girls do not get encouragement in science classes from the teachers. The teachers allow the boys to dominate the science class activities and are often given the leadership positions. This is in agreement with the findings of previous research (Njoku 1993). The girls are denied the “waiting” time required for them to put their thoughts into words when questions are asked so as to participate actively in discussion, in line with research findings which states that the girls require more time to respond to questions than girls (Hall 1982). Thus the girls are technically silenced in science class. Items 8,14, and 15 with mean score lower than 2.50 confirms that science teachers still assign roles to students based on gender. Sex role stereotyping has been identified as one of the major factors that hinder female students from actively participating and achieving in STM (Okeke 2000).

 

The mean score for items 9, 11,16,17,19,20 are above 2.50 indicating gender sensitive responses. This is an improvement over the findings of Nnaka (2008) on similar research where sensitivity of science and mathematics teachers was observed only on two items. This is an indication that the various researches and reports on gender issues in education are making gradual desirable impact.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2:- Gender Sensitive Questionnaire: Male Response (Male, N=38 )

 

S/no

 

Items

 

SA

 

A

 

D

 

SD

X

SD

1

Boys get more attention in my class during teaching

20

36

32

11

2.25

0.063

2

Questions are more often directed to boys in the class

04

33

36

14

1.98

0.27

3

Expect boys to answer most of the questions in the class

20

42

18

13

2.27

0.053

4

Use the pronoun “he” more often than she when teaching

20

51

14

15

2.27

0.053

5

Rarely ask a girl to demonstrate experiment in class

16

30

38

10

2.19

0.096

6

Female role models are often used in my teaching

16

42

20

18

2.09

0.17

7

Most of my jokes are directed to boys in the class

16

39

34

11

2.22

0.08

8

Set the same form of punishment for boys and girls in class

36

33

26

10

2.44

0.004

9

Set the same form of reward for boys and girls in the class

64

57

02

06

3.07

0.32

10

During practical work I usually ask a girl to lead the group

12

21

28

17

1.88

0.380.

11

Encourage boys and girls to work together in groups during  practical

100

48

08

05

3.22

0.52

12

More time is allocated to girls to answer questions

00

21

38

13

1.85

0.46

13

When a girl gives wrong answer to the question, I make uncomplimentary   Remarks$

08

06

36

19

1.68

0.67

14

Boys usually sit behind while girls should sit in front

12

29

34

17

1.96

0.29

15

15  Assign specific role to students based on   gender

24

54

24

06

2.35

0.030.

16

Explain to the class that females can also do specific types of work that  illustrates what boys are doing     

60

72

08

01

3.36

0.74

17

Girls in my class are usually given encouraging statements that motivate them to study science

76

69

06

01

3.45

0.90

18

Make negative comments to students about the kind of work or course that girls should undertake

04

50

44

17

1.77

0.53

19

Put in extra effort to help girls with their work in science and mathematics  class

60

48

16

07

2.85

0.12

20

Chores/tasks are rotated for boys as well as for boys.

44

72

05

02

2.93

0.19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 3 Gender Sensitive Questionnaire; Female Response ( N=13 )

 

S/no

 

Items

 

SA

 

A

 

D

 

SD

X

SD

1

Boys get more attention in my class during teaching

16

18

24

02

2.18

0.10

2

Questions are more often directed to boys in the class

32

09

12

05

2.00

0.25

3

Expect boys to answer most of the questions in the class

16

27

24

01

2.27

0.53

4

Use the pronoun “he” more often than she when teaching

16

27

12

04

2.09

0.17

5

Rarely ask a girl to demonstrate experiment in class

48

18

12

03

2.46

0.02

6

Female role models are often used in my teaching

32

18

20

02

2.36

0.10

7

Most of my jokes are directed to boys in the class

16

27

12

04

2.09

0.17

8

Set the same form of punishment for boys and girls in class

32

63

04

01

2.91

0.17

9

Set the same form of reward for boys and girls in the class

64

36

04

01

2.82

0.10

10

During practical work I usually ask a girl to lead the group

32

09

28

01

2.54

0.02

11

Encourage boys and girls to work together in groups during  practical

112

27

04

00

3.55

1.10

12

More time is allocated to girls to answer questions

32

18

20

03

2.37

0.02

13

When a girl gives wrong answer to the question, I make uncomplimentary   Remarks

00

00

28

04

1.06

2.07

14

Boys usually sit behind while girls should sit in front

16

09

24

08

2.00

0.25

15

15  Assign specific role to students based on   gender

48

27

12

02

2.64

0.020

16

Explain to the class that females can also do specific types of work that  illustrates what boys are doing     

80

54

00

00

3.46

0.92

17

Girls in my class are usually given encouraging statements that motivate them to study science

64

36

12

00

3.09

0.35

18

Make negative comments to students about the kind of work or course that girls should undertake

00

10

28

04

1.64

0.74

19

Put in extra effort to help girls with their work in science and mathematics  class

64

45

08

00

3.18

0.46

20

Chores/tasks are rotated for boys as well as for boys.

96

45

00

00

3.55

1.10

 

 


The gender wise consideration of the responses to the questionnaire, shows that the female teachers are far more gender sensitive than their male counterparts. The mean score of the female responses in items 8, 9,10,11,15,16,17,19 and 20 were above 2.50.(table 3)

 

The mean score of the male teachers in items 9, 11, 19, and 20 were above 2.50. The female teachers are more sensitive than the male teachers in the class.

However the t-test calculated of 1.90 indicates that there is no significance difference between the sensitivity of both teachers. It is still worthy to note the differences in the mean and its implication.

 

Conclusions/recommendation

The data presented in this study indicates a general low level of sensitivity to gender-related issues by science teachers in the class, however the gender sensitivity of female teachers are higher than that of the male. What are the implications for STM education?. There is a need to employ more females as STM teachers, and to create awareness of gender- related issues among science teachers.

 

More practical oriented workshops on gender issues in the classroom should be organized for serving teachers at state and local government levels. Gender sensitivity in the classroom should be included as a one hour credit course at the pre-service level in the training of science teachers. Various types of media-Radio, Newspapers, Televisions, and handbills etc should be employed to sensitize science teachers on the need to be responsive to gender issues in their classroom.

 

Reference:

Goog, T. L. and Biophy, S. (1973) Effects of teacher’s sex and student’s sex on classroom interaction, Journal of Education Psychology 65 (1) 33

Njoku Z.C. (1977). Tertiary level enrolment of female in science and technology courses: trends and implications for female empowerment”. Paper presented at the Intertional Conference on Crucial Issues in Education. Institute of Education, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

 

Nkwuoma, C. A.(2006), “ Data Analysis for Male/Female Ratio in STM Education” STAN Gender and STM Education series No.1.

 

Nnaka C.V.(2006), Enhancing Female Students Participation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Education (STME) through gender –fair Instructional Behavior; STAN Gender and STM Education Series 1.

 

Nnaka C.V.(2008), Responsiveness of Science Teachers to Gender issues in the Teaching of Science subjets. STAN and STM Education Series 2.

 

Nzewi U. M.(2008). Gender Issues in Science and Technology Education (STE) for a sustainable Universal Basic Education (UBE).

 

Obianya, B. N.(2000). Career Choice and Gender Stereotyping in Science”,Paper presented at a National Conference on Gender Equity in Nigeria. Umunze, Federal College of Education (technical) Umunze. 13-16 june 200.

 

Okeke E. A. C (1990). Gender Science and Technology in Africa; A Challenge for Education

Challenge for Education The 1990 Ramamaehta Lecture. Radcliff College, University of Cambridge, U.S.A. 

 

 Okeke E. A. C (2000). Towards Gender Equality in Nigeria in the 21st Century”. A keynote  address at the National Conference on Gender Equality in Nigeria. Federal College of Education (Technical) Umunze,13-16 June.

 

UNESCO (1998). Gender Sensitivity Module 5, Zambia.